Thanks to a collaborative partnership between the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith and Fort Smith Public Schools, UAFS School of Education interns will have an opportunity unlike any other in the state: to participate in an intensive, year-long paid internship.
This competitive program will allow interns to be fully immersed in a year of teaching while still being supported by School of Education faculty and internship supervisors. Interns selected for this enhanced internship program will also have the unique opportunity to spend the year learning from a dedicated and highly qualified mentor within the school system who will guide and assist them through classroom management, parent relationships and navigating the education system.
“Being immersed in the school setting and having full responsibility for the classroom while having support will grow our candidates into second-year teachers before they graduate,” said Monica Riley, executive director of the UAFS School of Education
The program will be piloted with two UAFS students who will each be paid half of a full-time contract for their year spent in the FSPS classroom.
“This partnership will not only allow our students to earn valuable experience that is unrivaled by other programs in the state, but it will also enable these future teachers to earn a living in the present without forfeiting professional involvement that will advance their future,” said Dr. Edward Serna, UAFS interim chancellor.
“This kind of collaboration is crucial in addressing the attrition rates of first-year teachers and the critical teacher shortages across our state,” Serna continued. “We’re proud to partner with Fort Smith Public Schools to find solutions that will better the Fort Smith community as well as the individual students these future teachers will go on to educate.”
Students selected for the enhanced internship will first be interviewed by the university to ensure they are adequately prepared for the experience.
“Only students who have completed all requirements for internship and have no disposition concerns will be selected to interview with FSPS personnel,” Riley explained. The students selected will have passed the licensure exam, completed necessary coursework and will possess classroom experience at the time of their selection.
Following their interview with UAFS, the students will be interviewed by FSPS, and those chosen will have their final education courses integrated within the first semester of the internship. Each intern will have the same responsibilities as any other full-time teacher. They will gain work experience that is virtually identical to that of a first-year teacher, but with extra guidance and support to foster their long-term success.
"Our class is excited about the year-long internship opportunity,” said Madison Strunk, a UAFS School of Education student. “The internship provides the chance for an entire year of hands-on learning, which will give our education program students confidence as we enter the teaching profession after graduation. While single-semester internships are beneficial, students in our program sometimes miss out on events or activities that do not occur in the semester being taught. The internship will ultimately help our future students, as we will be better prepared for the classroom from the beginning of the school year until the end. Working in the school system for an entire year will give our internship students an amazing experience as we prepare for our future in education."
While developing this program at UAFS, Riley explored other successful enhanced internship programs throughout the country. At the University of West Georgia, 33 of 34 interns who completed the year-long internship remained employed after five years.
Studies cited by the University Council for Educational Administration note that approximately 16 percent of teachers leave their school each year, and 19- 30 percent of all teachers leave the profession completely before their fifth year, making UWG’s five-year retention rates notable.
“I applaud the executive director of the School of Education, Dr. Monica Riley, as well as the leadership of FSPS, Dr. Doug Brubaker and Martin Mahan, for championing this initiative,” said Dr. Ron Darbeau, dean of the UAFS College of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. “Our collective hope for this program is that, by our interns experiencing the fullness of the classroom for an entire year, we will produce stronger first-year teachers and promote longevity in the profession."